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Kozlov's four goals help Islanders pound Rangers

Dec 4, 2006 - 12:53 AM NEW YORK (Ticker) -- Even Brendan Shanahan had to tip his hat to Viktor Kozlov.

Kozlov scored a career-high four goals to lead the New York Islanders to a wild 7-4 triumph over the New York Rangers.

It was the fifth victory in the last seven games for the Islanders (14-9-3), who moved one point ahead of the rival Rangers (13-10-4) and the New Jersey Devils (14-9-2) for first place in the Atlantic Division.

"It's not only me, it's my line and the whole team," Kozlov said. "We played good today, so I'm just a part of the team."

Kozlov netted his first tally late in the opening period as the Islanders built an early 4-0 lead.

But the Rangers rallied for three straight goals in the second period and drew within 5-4 at 7:01 of the final session when Shanahan scored off a rebound to complete his 18th career hat trick.

"We had a very comfortable lead," Islanders coach Ted Nolan said. "Sometimes when you have a comfortable lead, you have a tendency to let up a little bit, which we did."

However, Kozlov one-upped Shanahan and rescued the Islanders with his third goal, a snap shot which made it 6-4 at 13:52 of the third period.

"Sometimes the puck's going in, sometimes it's not," said Kozlov, who has six goals in his last two games. "So today was a good day for us. We scored all the chances we got in the first period. I don't know what's happening with me. I guess I'm feeling good with my partners, my linemates."

It was the second career hat trick for Kozlov, who beat Rangers goaltender Kevin Weekes to the glove side from the slot.

"When a team is losing, they have to open up," Kozlov said. "Maybe that's why I had all those chances to shoot. If it was a tight game, that would be a different story."

Kozlov wrapped up his career performance at 18:24 of the final session by receiving a cross-slot feed from Richard Park and wristing a shot from the right faceoff circle past Weekes.

"The one thing we've been talking to (Kozlov) in the last couple of days is get yourself in position to shoot the puck," Nolan said. "He has, I think, one of the best shots in the National Hockey League."

Former Ranger Chris Simon had a goal and two assists against his former team while Rick DiPietro made 39 saves for the Islanders, who dominated in the first meeting this season between the division rivals.

"We're just there playing strong in our own end and in the neutral zone," Park said. "Fortunately we got some breaks and Viktor had a heck of a of a hockey game. It's pretty easy when a guy is seeing the net that well."

Henrik Lundqvist turned aside just 4-of-8 shots before being replaced after the first period by Weekes, who stopped 10-of-13 shots. Adam Hall had two assists for the Rangers, who are on a season-high four-game losing streak.

"I don't know if it's confidence or communication or a combination of the two," Rangers coach Tom Renney said. "Assignments can get missed in the heat of the battle or in the spontaneity of playing. If conversation is alive then you can easily sort that out."

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